Howard Dean: A Public Option without Apologies

The difference on healthcare between Dr. Heart-throb in the 2004 campaign and the Democrat who swept the board in 2008 turns on strength and clarity of leadership, Dean says, with wondrously open self-regard.

The difference on healthcare between Dr. Heart-throb in the 2004 campaign and the Democrat who swept the board in 2008 turns on strength and clarity of leadership, Dean says, with wondrously open self-regard.

I asked Howard Dean last night: “if you’d been elected President, and Barack Obama were still in the Senate, might you have bent to the lobbies? And might Obama be out hammering you for the ‘public option’ in healthcare?” Dean laughed, but he didn’t seem to doubt the premise — that institutional pressures are in the saddle.

The public option — meaning some extension of the “socialistic” coverage now offered to seniors, veterans and Congresspeople — can’t be compromised, Dean shouted. (He didn’t scream.) It is the compromise.

The fight that President Obama will take to television tonight, is not between progressives and conservatives, Dean argued. The only real fight is between the insurance companies and plain people.

The president will abandon his “consensus” sell and make a partisan fight for the healthcare he wants. That is, Dean said, he will use his majority in both branches, or he will lose it.

“A bill without a public option is not a victory,” Dean declared, “it’s a defeat.”

The sold-out crowd of 600-plus in Harvard Square’s First Church in Cambridge loved it — no surprise — and egged him on.

It took off when the nice lady in the white dress asked Dr. Dean: “When are the Democrats going to grow a pair?”

“Why aren’t you Secretary of HHS?” somebody yelled.

“Because I couldn’t say any of the kinds of things I said tonight if I were,” Dean yelled back.

I post it as the sort of fighting stance that many more Democrats would love to hear from their president. What do you think?

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  • bkaplovitz

    From The Weekly Standard’s “The Blog”

    September 9, 2009

    Barnes: Five Questions for Obama

    For what it’s worth, I have five questions I’m looking for President Obama to answer in his health-care speech tonight. The idea is to determine if Obama is serious about moderate, preferably incremental reform the American public wants or is still seeking reform that delights Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and liberal interest groups.

    1) Does he advocate real tort reform? Curbing lawsuit abuse by putting a cap on non-economic awards is the only way to reduce health care costs. And Obama has said cutting costs is his top priority.

    2) Does he offer anything of significance to Republicans? Not just kind words, but actual concessions such as no tax increases as part of Obamacare or a requirement that those getting subsidized health insurance show proof of citizenship. I could go on and on. Saying he’s not demanding a public insurance plan doesn’t count. Democrats have already killed it.

    3) Does he once again trot out the straw man that the only alternative to ObamaCare is “doing nothing”? Republicans do have alternatives. So do Democrats like Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

    4) Does he demonize health providers he’s made deals with — insurers, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals? A president who says he wants a cool, rational discussion of health care issues would not use this tactic.

    5) Does he repeat any of the untruths from his stump speeches? That abortion would not be covered at all in Obamacare or that no one could lose his current health insurance and so on.

    Obama has a chance tonight to “reset” the health care debate. But he can only do this by changing — by scaling back dramatically — his plans for Obamacare. If his answers to my five questions are no, no, yes, yes, yes — if we hear the same old Obama boilerplate — we’ll know he’s learned nothing from this summer’s discontent.

    –Posted by Fred Barnes on September 9, 2009 12:30 PM

    © Copyright 2009, The Weekly Standard, LLC, All Rights Reserved.

  • jack

    Not long after I’d seen my mother through the terminal consequences of an insurance company “death panel,” to give the nasty phrase its proper designation, I fell ill. I was young, had worked various jobs, had spent a lot of time looking after my mother, so didn’t have health insurance (still don’t). I went to a pricey doctor who asked me a) if I had any money; b) if I had any family. No on both counts. His heartfelt reply: ” You poor fucker.” And that was that.

    I recently had some health problems here in Europe. According to the law and all its valiant xenophobic proponents (Lega Nord),, it’s illegal to treat people who aren’t in strict conformity with immigration regulations. Needless to say — or so one would hope — the Hippocratic Oath trumps politics and doctors seem to minister to whomever. I went to an MD last week and my attempt to pay was almost taken as an affront.

    No matter Howard Dean’s cosmic self- regard, I wish he were part of the administration. At least where health-care is concerned, He knows what he’s talking about, and he seems to have the brass balls to confront the right-wing telletubbies. Another blot on Obama.

  • jack
  • Potter

    Perhaps we should be grateful that Paul Krugman and Howard Dean have not been drafted into government service; they are doing us better service as free spirits who can say what they want to say and in the manner they prefer to say it (honestly and forthrightly).

    I have been convinced that without the public option compromise we will not have much healthcare reform.

    I don’t understand Obama’s modus operandi- capitulating, or appearing to, before the fight. We may end up with a president that is known for his wonderful vision and speeches that move, but lack of a spine. We wait to see.